Shell station in St Albans criticised for “sneaky” parking fines
- Credit: Archant
Regular customers of a Shell service station in St Albans have threatened to stop filling up there after being hit with £100 parking fines by a privately hired enforcement officer lurking nearby.
Becki Jones, of High Oaks, was left ‘fuming’ after receiving the hefty fine after parking for just two minutes at the Shell service station in Beech Road while trying to do a good deed for a poorly 91-year-old neighbour.
And one local man who was also fined, Tommy Burr, of Marshall Avenue, said it was “disgusting that poor members of the public are getting caught out and being ripped off”.
Their fines have attracted much criticism on social media, with some members of the 7,649–strong St Albans Mums Facebook page suggesting the ‘dodgy’ fines should be challenged, particularly as parking notices recently put around the station are hidden among other signage or too high to see clearly.
Becki explained that she and a neighbour often helped a deaf 91-year-old man living between them. He has problems communicating as he had part of his tongue removed after suffering mouth cancer, and is deaf. The man’s son died suddenly before Christmas, and social care services have been almost non-existent since then.
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Becki offered to drop off his prescription at the chemist in Beech Road. However as it is located in a parade of shops near Tesco Express, there is usually very little parking along the busy stretch.
So she parked briefly at the Shell station, without blocking petrol pumps or services on the forecourt, and dropped off the prescription.
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Becki is a regular customer at the petrol station, and as she did not see new notices warning that parking enforcement was in operation 24 hours a day, was surprised to receive a £100 fine in the mail, which would be reduced to £60 if paid within 28 days.
She said: “I was in absolute disbelief. I was there for just a few minutes, doing a favour for an old and ill man.”
When Becki phoned Parking Control Management (PCM) which issued the fine to explain the situation, it merely suggested she appeal it.
She said: “I will end up paying the fine, but as a customer I will not step into that place again. Other people have suggested they would boycott it, particularly as the fine is so steep.”
Tommy said: “The new private parking company at Shell have someone sitting in their car waiting to catch people out. There aren’t any signs at the entrance to warn of these charges.”
When the Herts Advertiser visited the garage, the parking notices were very difficult to see, particularly as they were placed up high among multiple advertising banners on a nearby brick wall.
Tommy said he was ‘fuming’ after receiving a fine for parking there for five minutes to go to a nearby shop.
He said: “You can’t see those signs when it is dark. I spend £150 a month on fuel there, but I’m definitely going elsewhere now.”
An employee at the station told this paper that “our staff have been fined as well”.
He said the parking enforcement was brought in late last month, as people were “blocking fuel tankers” by parking on the forecourt and shopping at Tesco, or visiting the King William pub opposite. Delivery drivers for Pizza Hut also park there.
He added: “I don’t know how many people have been fined.”
Although it is a Shell service station, the site is owned by the Motor Fuel Group – which bought it from Shell in July last year. A spokeswoman for the group, which is based in Everard Close in St Albans, confirmed the firm had brought in the private parking enforcement, but refused to comment further.
On its website, Citizens Advice says that such charges compensate the landowner for the loss suffered, but you can potentially argue in court that the amount is excessive, because it is more than is needed to compensate the landowner for its loss. It recommends people to ask for a breakdown of how the charges are arrived at.